Nothing quite encapsulates Bitcoin’s astronomical ascent in 2017 than its value, which increased from $900 to over $20,000 in December last year. The cryptocurrency hype has become contagious, with the same big banks that the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto sought to defy with his Bitcoin now looking into how to exploit the hype for themselves.
Countries too, like Russia and North Korea, have been quick to see the value in investing in Bitcoin to use to circumvent sanctions that have handicapped their economic growth. North Korea is an interesting case in particular: it doesn’t have internet nor allows one to exist except their own intranet and has one of the most hermetic and hostile foreign policies, jailing and ultimately killing college students for stealing signs, and led by a despot eager to keep power in his own chubby hands as tightly as he can.
Given the country’s rather isolated position, it is strange then that it would be dabbling in something as globally connected as Bitcoin. Indeed, some universities have even invited Bitcoiners to teach their students the basics of blockchain, and the uses of Bitcoin.
Federico Tenga was one such Bitcoiner invited to North Korea’s Pyongyang University of Science and Technology to give a week-long series on the cryptocurrency, and its benefits. In his interview with privacy company ExpressVPN, he describes his time in North Korea, the students he taught, and the aspects of his lessons that interested them the most.
His description of his experience teaching North Korean computer science students the basics of Bitcoin not only gives us a glimpse of the heightened interest in the cryptocurrency, but also the similar interests the students had with Tengo – namely on the topic of soccer.
In any case, the interview shows us that North Korea is finding more advanced ways of connecting to the world, sanctions or not. In light of unprecedented talks between the US, North Korea and South Korea, it will be interesting to see how its efforts to “come online” so-to-speak are reflected in these talks.